December 30, 2015

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 17

& the annual return of Sanity Clause, with gifts of poetry for all the bad poets. Tonight’s featured poet was Kate McNairy. I invoked the Muse of the gone poet Enid Dame & once-again this year read her moving “Holiday Poem” with it’s right-on conclusion, “We don’t need the solace of bought objects/ We Need each other’s light.”

It was a good night for Sanity Clause, with the major portion of the readers being women, to sit on his lap & recite the tales of their naughtiness during the year. The first was Sylvia Barnard with a work-in-progress about a village outside Cambridge, England, “Grandchester, to Rupert Brooke & Sylvia Plath.”

At her first appearance here at the Social Justice Center, Cindy Blair read her one holiday poem, “Forget Santa,” a memoir poem of childhood. A poet known in the past by other names showed up tonight as Ricki DeSeers & had a stack of books he recommended & a ramble on the times,  then recited by heart “50 Cents,” a Depression era piece. Sally Rhoades was another welcome female for Sanity Clause’s lap, but first read she a poem on h(om)e coming in a canoe. Avery read/chanted “What Is that Subtle Background Buzz” a piece based on the Heart Sutra.

Kate McNairy’s book June Bug was published in 2014 by Finishing Line Press & tonight she read the whole thing. The poems include many nature titled pieces, “Strawberries,” “Crows,” the title piece “June Bug,” “Rainbow Trout,” etc., with even references to herself in a couple poems as a skittish rabbit. Some are quirky philosophical ponderings, for example “Gambler,” & “Architect” sometimes with a dash of the sexy. Then she read a sample of some newer work, ranging from pieces on loneliness (“Homeless,” “A Cup of Coffee”), to a love poem “Love All Swept Up,” a piece set in a bar “Pool at 3 AM,” & a poem on “Smells,” among others. Her poems are characteristically short, imagistic, which she read with nary an introduction. You can often catch Kate at the Caffè Lena open mic in Saratoga Springs.

After a break I read my traditional holiday poem “Christmas Eve, 1945.”

I was followed by Donna Williams, who didn't read a poem of her own but brought one by Galway Kinnell just so she could sit on Sanity Clause’s lap. Karen Fabiane was back to read a new poem, “Andalusian Girls” filled with swirling, urban images of heroines. Eric Randall made a rare appearance with a poem titled “Writing Lesson” describing a poem & love. Down to the final 3, Julie Lomoe plugged her mystery novels then sang the parody “The Most Over-Hyped Time of the Year.” Carole Rossi wasn’t sure which last name to use, ending up with a palimpsest on the sign-up sheet, & read a poem from a series “120 Nights of Dreaming,” last night’s dream “The Dreamland Parable” from her inner-child to ours. The last poet of the night, Adam Graydon Brown, read a brief self-help poem to close out the night.

Sanity Clause was most grateful for all the women poets who showed up tonight to read — & more importantly, to sit on his lap. Sanity Clause only shows up once each year, but this series with a featured reader & an open mic happens each third Thursday of the month at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, at 7:30 PM, all for a modest donation to support the featured poet, the SJC & other poetry events in the area.

December 29, 2015

Albany Poets Presents!, December 16

This was the first in a planned series hosted by Thom Francis, el presidente of, to be held at the Midtown Tap & Tea Room on New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY. Thom said it has been his dream to have such a series where each night is focused on a single local poet, with a reading & then an interview & Q&A to discuss the poet’s work in depth.

It was most appropriate that the first poet to undergo this regime would be Schenectady poet Alan Catlin, one of the most published poets in America & a regular, loyal supporter/participant of the local poetry scene. Even before I moved back to this area in 1986 I knew the name Alan Catlin from numerous small press zines & from Factsheet Five, a periodical directory of zines published by Mike Gunderloy out of Rensselaer. It contained reviews & contact information for the zines that was important for connecting us like-minded poets & artists, & for finding places to publish our work. I recall one issue where they published the results of a survey they had done of the zines & listed "the most published poets in America."  The list included at the top Lyn Lifshin (who was living in Niskayuna at the time), Paul Weinman (Albany) & Alan Catlin of Schenectady. I won’t say that’s what made me decide to move back to Albany, but it certainly made my move from the NYC metropolitan area sweeter.  After I moved here I was pleased to actually meet Alan, then, over the years, become his friend, trading poetry books, sharing stories on car rides between poetry readings & Schenectady.

Alan's reading tonight mixed poems from his newest book Last Man Standing (Lummox Press, 2015), from a new series based on movie titles “Hollyweird,” & some from a forthcoming book of ekphrastic poems based on photos. Last Man Standing features a cover painting by Gene McCormick which could be Alan (although not with a bowtie) in his job as a bartender for many years, notably at Albany’s Washington Tavern. So many poems from this collection (& others) come out of that cornucopia of experience. Alan’s interest in the visual arts has also fueled many poems & his new collection will include poems on work by Mapplethrope, Groz, Sandor, even Ralph Stedman.

Following the reading Thom Francis sat down with Alan to discuss his work. The topics of that & the audience Q&A ranged from Alan’s own writing, to Last Man Standing, to his editing the online journal Misfit Magazine, to his relationships with poets Paul Weinman & Lyn Lifshin.

As is AlbanyPoets technical wont, the program was audio-taped & hopefully will be available to the world sometime soon so you don’t have to take my word for what happened tonight. & speaking of AlbanyPoets, check out their website for future Albany Poets Presents! programs, as well as other poetry events in the Capital region.

December 14, 2015

2nd Sunday @ 2, December 13

Nancy Klepsch & I were pleased to see so many smiling, poetic faces in the black box theater at the Arts Center this Sunday afternoon.

First up to read was Peggy LeGee with the first of the afternoon's seasonal poems “I Give the Gift” in many forms, for many reasons. Carol Jewell had an afternoon out for poetry & began with “The Snowman” by Wallace Stevens, then her own touching poem about meeting her dead brother “Chance Encounter.”

Maureen McCauley was here for the first time with an excerpt from a prose memoir, this section “In the May Queen’s Court” set in 2nd grand in Catholic school. Bob Sharkey gave us a brief update on The Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Prize, a poetry contest he is coordinating, now gone international, then read “The Red Chair,” a series of poetic vignettes, watching DVDs with children, listening to Hummel’s music, & being in Union Square. Cathy Abbott, as always, read a very brief piece that, like Haiku, are best heard a 2nd time. I had signed up too & read my poem about my mother’s Xmas, “Christmas 1945” then a brief, new piece “Dream Poem.” Jay Renzi read what he described as the last part of a 9-part long poem titled “The White Goddess” this part was “Runes & Mountains,” a Dark Ages fantasy, then the short “Sexy Trouble.”

Sandra Rouse read a not-so-nice seasonal piece “Bile at Christmas” then “Gold Finch” from a series of poems about birds, confronting her fears. Joe Krausman’s seasonal poem was “Season’s Greetings” to all the faiths, then read a poem from his brand-new chapbook from Benevolent Bird Press, Monkeyshines, the poem “Out of the Running” which, he said, was printed without the final quatrain, which he did read for us. Mike Conner began with “Love Feast” then his version of that famous poem first published in Troy, NY, his titled “The Night Before Christmas at My House.”

My co-host, Nancy Klepsch, began with an old poem, “Non-Repo Blues” then a newer piece “Sister.” Karen Fabiane read 2 poems from her first chapbook, Dancing Bears (Bright Hill Press, 2011), the psychedelically titled “Dripping Syndetic Tripiness” the a relationship piece “Fawn.” Kate Laity read a timely, seasonal piece “Then Little Joe the Krampus Met (A Cautionary Tale)” & beats the Xmas evil spirit.

Then Nancy & I read the excerpt from Enid Dame’s “Holiday Poem” that we have used as a flyer this time a year at the monthly peace vigil in front of the State Capitol in Albany.

We’ll be back next year on the 2nd Sunday @ 2PM at the Arts Center in Troy, bring poetry or prose to read. Enjoy the Holidays (& avoid the Krampus — & cramps).

December 13, 2015

Raw Poetry, December 11

 This is a brand-new series that I literally stumbled across the other day doing some Xmas shopping  at Elissa Halloran’s on Lark St. There was one of those sidewalk signs that announced “Raw Poetry, 6PM, Dec. 11 & 18” outside The Brakes Restaurant. So I came back the next night to check it out. In the meantime I looked on & it was listed in the calendar at 7PM, so I went at the earlier time. The Brakes is a coffeehouse & vegan restaurant on the 2nd floor of 227 Lark St., Albany, NY.

It was a good sign when I walked in & got my cappuccino (with almond milk) that they were playing a recording of The Last Poets album. The organizer, Hyacinth Miles, who is also a cook at the restaurant, told me that this was actually the first such reading & that they are planning to hold it every Friday night, except on the 1st Friday of the month when there is the art walk along Lark St. & in Albany. She said that indeed there had been confusion over the start time & some folks would be there later, but in deference to a few of us who were here early they would start soon after 6:00.

First of the first was “King Charles,” with 3 pieces (Hyacinth said we could do 8 minutes), a piece addressed to a “you” who it seems was a building as old as he is, then some musings on love, & a spiritual piece about learning to be compassionate addressed to another “you” who was apparently a god of sorts. He later said he was new in town, had done Slam back in Michigan where he was from. Hyacinth Miles did a love poem titled “We Were Violence.” I was up next, talked briefly about the Albany poetry scene & read, by way of history, “Where Were the Professors?”, then “The Cold Clean Sea” from my new book Gloucester Notes, & from Poeming the Prompt the poem “What Really Happened.” Hyacinth was back with a hip-hop piece from memory that was performed at high speed, then a notebook poem about the end of love, & another from memory cursing the rain.

At this point we took a little break as more folk filed into the small room, including a few poets, then back to the open mic. I was surprised to see Druis Beasley arrive, a poet who had read earlier this year in May at the 2nd Sunday @ 2 open mic at the Arts Center in Troy, & who had been active in the early Albany poetry scene when she was a student at the University at Albany. It turns out that she is Hyacinth’s mother. She began with political rant “Against the War” on black history, racism, & the need for the light of the ancestors, then another piece on racism “Double Consciousness,” & on to a praise poem for the African mother goddess & what she called “women of the calabash.”

Lana Harvey read a piece titled “New York New York” from her phone, a political poem that sounded like it was based on Allen Ginsberg’s “America.” Isaiah Tinsley performed a dialogue piece from memory “Over the Moon” that he got us to sing along with at the end. King Charles was back again, since there were more people here & took advantage of the stage to do 2 pieces he hadn’t done before, the repeated 2 from his first set.

Hyacinth ended the night with a couple pieces, one titled “Unmarked Grave” & a repeat of her high-speed hip hop piece (for which she wears her dark glasses).

The Brakes is a funky coffeehouse setting with floor-to-ceiling windows facing out over Lark St. that serves vegan & gluten-free & local foods, & now poetry as well, at least on most Friday nights. I was told they would be starting at 7:00 PM from now on. Check it out for poetry, or any other time for the food, coffee, tea.

December 10, 2015

Live from the Living Room, December 9

Although Don Levy has announced that this poetry/open mic series at the Pride Center, that has been going on since February 2003, will be ending, it’s not quite yet! Tonight a number of poets & friends gathered to hear Sylvia Barnard read her poetry.

 Sylvia is a regular here, & at a number of other venues in the area. Tonight she read from a crumpled sheaf of poems representing poems written in the last few years, beginning with poems about her neighborhood. “Neighborhood 2015” (about looking at the windows & buildings along Willett St., imagining the people who lived there in the past), & the “Siobhan in Washington Park Age 46” was a recent piece about her daughter. Staying in Washington Park for a while, she read “Playground” & the wonderful meditation on aging “Poets in the Park.” Then on to some poems about friends, “Schubert in Assisted Living” & 3 poems inspired by tales told by a Danish friend, “Cycling thru Denmark,” “Dickens in Denmark,” & “Occupation,” all set around World War II. She read a series of poems set in England & Ireland, “Liverpool,” “The Book of Kells,” & ”The Giants’ Causeway,” then ended with one about a trip to Sicily, “Wind.” Sylvia began her reading by tentatively apologizing for reading poems that many of us had heard before, but that, for me, is never a problem if the poems are good — until I can go to the Library & take out the Collected Poems of Sylvia Barnard, I’m happy to hear again poems I have enjoyed in the past.

A brief open mic followed, & I was first on the list with a new, tribute poem “Joe the Bartender” then an somewhat older love poem “The Noon Train.”

Meredith was not going to read, then remembered she had written an Haiku this morning & read that, & glad she did. Sally Rhoades had forgotten her printed poems but read 2 from her phone, “This One Night I Awaken” (to Moon light) & “I Am a Dreamer.” Ford McLain had been the featured poet here last month (which I missed), but he was back tonight with a Haiku, then an anaphoric poem on writing “Moleskin.” Our pleased host, Don Levy, read 2 poems inspired by recent events, “The Faces of Paris” in which he recalled the French people he had seen on his visit there in August, & a poem about a recent front page of the Daily News “Thoughts & Prayers.”

For the time-being there is a poetry reading with a featured poet & an open mic at the Pride Center on Hudson Ave., Albany, NY on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, 7:30PM, with a modest donation.  Catch it before it is gone.

December 7, 2015

Book Launch: My Moon Self, December 6

This was a reading/gathering to present to the community Philomena Moriarty’s book My Moon Self: A Spiritual Memoir Through Poetry (Bodhicitta Press, 2015), held at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany. She was introduced by her husband, Sam Trumbore, the pastor at the U.U. (& full disclosure: I had read Philomena’s manuscript & provided comments & suggestions, & I am mentioned in the Acknowledgments.)

Many of us in the poetry scene have heard Philomena read these poems, & others, at open mics throughout the area. Today she read a selection from the book, touching on the Buddhist text The Way of the Bodhisattvas (the title poem, “My Moon Self”) & it’s American pop culture version, the TV show Kung Fu (“Walking on Rice Paper”), also “Walking Meditation” & the last poem “Benefaction.” But along the way she also visited her Irish Catholic upbringing with the poem “Act of Contrition,” & a poem about her mother grieving the death of Philomena’s brother, “Romance.”

So nice to have this lovely, illustrated book of Philomena’s poems.

December 4, 2015

Poets Speak Loud!, November 30

But nobody is louder than our host, Mary Panza, even with a mouthful of Pop Rocks tonight — which also was a night of virgins, or a few anyways.

First up in the open mic was Ian Macks with a poem titled “Tightropes” based on the free-flow of ideas listening to music, then a relationship poem with thoughts of friends who had been mugged. Joe Krausman’s first poem was titled “Too Old” which of course engendered some gentle heckling from the crowd, then a poem about a true encounter “At the Dollar Bargain Store.” Julie Lomoe read 2 seasonal poems about skiing, the descriptive “First Skiing of the Season,” then what happened on a “Frozen Chair Lift.”

First of the night’s virgins was Rose with a good-ole break-up poem titled “29 Years.” She was followed by Adam Tedesco, who read from what he called “a shit-load of poems about my heart,” a cluster of short pieces, images, similes of the heart. Tim Livingston read a love song titled “Tracks” that will be on the new CD, Hold That Thought Forever, from the band The Last Conspirators, coming out in January.

Even tonight’s featured poet, J.L. Weeks, was a virgin of sorts: this was her first featured reading. She began with an urban piece about the “hard city,” then on to another, “Tuesday” sitting at a bar in NYC. “Walter” was a sad portrait of a man at the VA hospital, while “Welcome to Bullshit Industries” was structured like an automated phone service menu, but got a little lost in its politics. “Elements” was all about breathing them in. She said that “Ballad of a Hollow Girl” was her “opera,” about a girl taking guys home & the end of relationships, in uneven rhymes, as were many of her pieces. Her final, long piece was a self-portrait, using writing as healing, “It Comes in Lines.” Jamie hasn’t read out in the open mics very often & I hope she does so we can watch her work mature through her exposure to the varied work of other poets.

Back to the open mic, Nykky was another virgin, but said she was reading from her 2nd book, a grim piece about being stalked, “Shadows.” Jacky read in 2 parts, the first about her father, the second about her mother, both in every poem she writes she said.

The most charming reading of the night was by an interview of Samson Dikeman by Magnolia,  tossing the pages of their script to the floor as they finished each line. I read 2 new poems, the tribute poem “Joe the Bartender” & the shorter “Metaphor.” Carrie Czwakiel began with a poem written when she was 17 years old, “Smoke,” then what she called her “forgiveness poem” to her ex, “Husband, Father & the Drunkard.” Karen Fabiane began with “The Rain Came” from her first book Seeing You Again (Grey Book Press, 2014), then a new piece “Andalusian Girls.” Avery was the last poet of the night, first with a new piece written today, the characteristically effusive “Extreme Ideological Expulsion,” then to the extended sex metaphor of “You Are Art” — hey, aren’t we all?

Poets Speak Loud! is a production of (where you can find a calendar of the region’s poetry events) & takes place on the last Monday of each month at McGeary’s on Clinton Square, 7:30 or 8:00, donations accepted to pay the feature & support the cause — good food, cold drinks, hot wait staff — poifect!

December 1, 2015


(for all the great bartenders I know & have known)

Joe the bartender
is not always named Joe.
This one tonight is, but even
when their names are
Lynn or Alan or Elaine or Nick
they are Joe.

We always remember the first.
Back then the only bartender I knew
wore a long white apron, white shirt
a wide tie with a gold tie clasp
grey hair slicked back
from an Italian granite face.
He served me my first orange soda
on fight night in the back room
with my father before we had a TV
later my first legal draft.
In between, my father
who spent as much time with Joe
as he did at home, once sent me
to the Tavern for a quart of Budweiser.
Joe looked at me, asked
“Are you 18?” as I reached for
my new draft card. “I guess you are,
your father would never have sent
you here if you weren’t.”

At a bar in a chain motel in suburban Baltimore
where I stayed the second time in 6 weeks
the Bartender looked at me, “Bourbon & soda?”
she said. A nameless Joe in the top 10, always.

On week nights I wandered 2 blocks
to the Tin Palace for piano jazz & beer
& Lynn who always knew if my latest honie
had left or stayed, shared stories of falling
asleep on the phone. She could handle
a sudden crowd as if she were leaning
on the bar talking just to me.

Other Joes were poets: Melanie writing
behind the bar. Mary saving the poems
to read later in other bars. Alan with more
bar poems than we have poems on anything.

The Joes know how to not make you wait
while you wait, slide a draft to you
between a 17-ingredient martini
find the wine you like while
changing channels & bad plastic
hand you a menu, describe 3
specials, muddling mint, rosemary
asking about your day, your picks
for the Super Bowl, if you want water.
The Joes aren’t flustered, don’t apologize
they keep the wait staff happy
& you & everyone else.
They are there after you leave
& there when you come back again.

Goodnight Joe

whatever your name is.